Anti-Smuggling Investments in the CBSA and RCMP

Date: December 16, 2021       
Classification: Unclassified
Branch / Agency: CPB

Proposed Response:

If pressed on use of CERB funding to buy illegal firearms:


Firearms smuggling refers to the illegal importation of firearms across an international border. Firearms trafficking is not limited to international borders and includes the illegal domestic transfer of firearms through criminal diversion and straw purchasing. 

Cross-Border Smuggling

The cross-border smuggling of firearms poses a threat to the safety and security of Canada. Given the easy availability of firearms in the United States (U.S.), including firearms that are strictly controlled or prohibited in Canada, most firearm seizures happen at the Canada-U.S. land border. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) seizes large quantities of firearms every year from U.S. citizens, mostly from non-compliant travellers attempting to retain their personal firearms while travelling. In 2021–2022, CBSA has reported seeing a large upward trend with 678 firearms seized to-date in the first half of the fiscal year compared to total firearms seized in 2018–19 (696), 2019–20 (753) or 2020–21 (548). With the removal of COVID-19 restrictions at the land border, CBSA anticipates that this trend is likely to continue. The total of firearms successfully smuggled into Canada is unknown.

Firearms Tracing, Straw Purchasing and Diversion

Firearms tracing is a key tool in determining the sources of and diversion routes for illegal firearms. Approximately, 21,000 firearms are seized annually by police. In 2021, the Canadian National Firearms Tracing Centre (CNFTC) successfully traced 2,572 of the 3,212 firearms received for tracing of the 2,572, 69% were deemed to be imported legally or manufactured in Canada, while the remainder were smuggled (13%) or without importer documentation (18%). The CNFTC completed 54% more trace requests than 2020 (3,212 vs. 2,094).

Straw purchasing occurs when a legal Canadian firearm license-holder purchases a gun and then illegally resells it on the black market, through a targeted campaign for individuals and retailers. Many legal firearms in Canada are diverted into the illicit market through domestic straw purchasing practices and theft. According to Statistics Canada, between 2010 and 2019, there was an increase of break and enters where a firearm was stolen (from 673 to 1,072 incidents). There may be cases where thefts are related to improper storage and transportation of firearms, but data on this is not available.

Enhancing Canada’s Firearm Control Framework

In Budget 2021, the government announced an investment of $312M over five years, starting in 2021–22, and $41.4M per year ongoing for PS, CBSA, and the RCMP to enhance Canada’s firearm control framework. This funding includes program measures that will:

Funding breakdown starting 2021-22 over five years (cash basis) is as follows:

Funding Breakdown
Dept. Initiative Over 5 years Ongoing
RCMP Enhanced CFP services to Canadians $79.3M $10.5M
Increase capacity to trace crime guns $15.5M $3.3M
Anti-smuggling investment $40.4M $5.5M
Seed Funding for buyback program $1.7M $0.0M
Direct Program Support $7.7M $0.7M
Internal Services $13.6M $2.0M
CBSA AI and networked threat detection $1.4M $0.0M
Threat detection at the land and marine border $6.4M $0.95M
Enhanced Intelligence and investigative capacity $13.8M $2.9M
Legislative regulatory and policy development $7.8M $1.6.0
Force generation $1.1M $0.06M
Internal services $5.2M $1.2M
PS Legislative, regulatory and policy development $9.1M $0.0
Public awareness campaign $3.5M $0.0
Internal services $2.1M $0.0

* Total numbers have been rounded
**Amounts include funding for costs associated to Employee Benefit Plans, SSC and PSPC.

In Fall 2018, the Initiative to Take Action Against Gun and Gang Violence (ITAAGGV) was announced—an allocation of federal investments of up to $327.6 million over five years to help support a variety of targeted initiatives to combat gun and gang violence. Funding was increased in 2019 to $358.8 million.

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